Page 30 - THE Journal, October 2017
P. 30

| OCTOBER 2017
design can have a 25 percent impact, either positive or negative, on student achievement over the course of an academic year — with factors such as color, complexity, flexibility, lighting and student choice having the most influence.
At the 2017 International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) confer- ence in San Antonio, a number of sessions focused on redesigning classrooms to make them more engaging and inviting.
April DeGennaro, a K-5 gifted education teacher in Fayette County, GA, co-chairs the professional development committee for ISTE’s Learning Spaces Network. During the ISTE conference, she discussed how her school system is shifting from traditional industrial-style classrooms with desks arranged in rows to more flexible learning spaces that encourage the development of 21st- century skills.
Fayette County began with five pilot schools, DeGennaro said. The leadership teams at each of these schools were involved in designing their own model learning spaces in conjunction with professional designers. The resulting spaces incorporated soft seating options, areas for collaboration and more vibrant colors — and students were excited by the results. “Students tell me they love being
able to move around and even lie down while they’re learning,” she said.
But redesigning learning spaces won’t amount to much without changing in- structional practices as well. Quoting her superintendent, Joseph Barrow, DeGennaro said: “When we get the intersection of utiliz-
ing flexible learning spaces and implement- ing personalized student learning, we have designed a great ‘secret sauce.’”
Focus on the Learning
David Jakes, a former educator and administrator who now helps schools
During the 2017 ISTE conference, K-12 design consultant David Jakes shared many ideas for how school leaders can make their classrooms more engaging and dynamic spaces that encourage learning. Here are five of his ideas.
Create a multidimensional space. “We want to give students a choice and agency for using the space, so they can reshape it for their needs,” he said.
Promote movement and activity. Research suggests that allowing students to move around during class offers both academic and health-related benefits. Consider buying chairs that allow students to rock or move around, as well as height-adjustable desks and tables that enable them to stand or sit.
Embed opportunities for learning into the design. Take advantage of every opportunity to invite student learning, Jakes advised. He showed an example of a classroom in which the ceiling lights were arranged as constellations in the night sky.
Add color. Studies show that color affects our moods and can make for a more engaging space to be in, Jakes said. Look for opportunities to introduce a variety of colors into the classroom, such as on walls, desks, chairs, trim, accent colors, the insides of cabinets, and carpet tiles.
Design with digital in mind. Think about electrical power sources for students to charge their devices, Jakes recommended. Many school furniture manufacturers have designed tables and soft seating with embedded power outlets for students to plug in their laptops and tablets. Also, consider the surface area of tables and whether it’s sufficient to accommodate these student devices.

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